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Try these cell phone photography tips when traveling

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Posted at 3:04 PM, Jun 22, 2015
and last updated 2015-06-22 16:04:56-04

Sometimes it’s not enough to just experience your journey on your own. Be it for bragging rights or memories, certain adventures just beg to be photographed.

If the idea of lugging around an SLR doesn’t appeal to you but you still want top-quality pictures to show off your trip, don’t underestimate the power of your handy-dandy cell phone when you visit the most photogenic places in America.

Here are a few tips to help channel your inner Ansel Adams using only your iPhone or Android.

Follow the rule of thirds
This basic composition rule holds just as well for artists of the mobile phone variety. Instinct might tell you to place your subject directly in the center of the photo. Instead, imagine your frame is split into three, both horizontally and vertically. Place your subject on or at the intersection of these lines and voila — you’ve created a photo with drama and intrigue that a simple center-focused shot can’t produce. (Hint: Truly experience the power of the proportion by using it on shots of the horizon.)

Ditch the pocket lint
Modern technology has allowed us to carry around a device in our pockets that can snap photos, order takeout, monitor everything from our moods to our food intake, call our moms, and find the coolest places to stop on your next road trip. But until there’s an app for zapping pocket lint, it pays to wipe your lens every time you pull out your phone to snap a shot. Even if you don’t see it in the photo, lint and other small particles stuck on your lens can create fuzzy, dark pictures by throwing off everything from focus to exposure.

Give the flash a rest
Cell phone flashes are really just glorified LED lights. When possible, find abundant natural light to illuminate your subject. When it’s not possible (like when you’re sitting by the campfire at night), try holding your camera steady to create clear images using whatever light is available. Counter-intuitively, you may want to consider forcing that flash on when you photograph subjects against a bright background to prevent them from appearing dark and featureless.

Get the right apps
Up your cell phone photo game by downloading apps that enhance your built in camera. VSCO Cam is a minimalist stills-only app that allows you to adjust focus and exposure as well as shoot in a square, Instagram-friendly mode. Panorama 360 allows you to capture those sweeping mountain vistas and jaw-dropping water views by giving you a way to compile multiple shots into impressive panoramas. And the Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan let's you use organize, edit, and share your photos from anywhere, even in a kayak like out roving photographer, Joel Schat.